How Do You Create a Real Leadership Culture?

How Do You Create a Real Leadership Culture?

I have received positive feedback from a number of you about an article which appeared recently in Training Journal. The article addressed a question I have been asked on many occasions: how do you create a real leadership culture? In the article, I describe how the essence of creating a real leadership culture lies in supporting those leaders who strive to spend most of their time at the real end of the continuum, and challenging those who are stuck or choose to be at the safe end.

Challenging safe leaders is difficult! They are likely to exhibit classic symptoms of either ‘denial’ (“Leave me alone to be the good leader I already am”) or ‘resistance’ (“I’m far too busy to attend that leadership programme”).

Here are a few ideas on how to challenge these safe leaders:

  • Get them to create and communicate visions to their teams. This will ensure they are proactive in focusing on the future and, by going public on it with their team, become visible and ‘own’ it.
  • Ensure they receive impactful developmental feedback on a regular basis rather than once a year during performance reviews. Safe leaders do not want feedback, or are quick to dismiss any they receive that they don’t like. So find a way of ensuring they do receive 360 degree feedback on their leadership that makes an impact and will compel them to action.
  • Provide them with a challenging coach who has permission to push them outside the boundaries of their safety zone; encouraging risk-talking, making the tough decisions they’ve been avoiding and getting them to think beyond what they believe has worked in the past.
  • Help them set goals that will drive their day-to-day leadership behaviours rather than the annual review goals that get lost and forgotten for twelve months. These should be in the form of process goals around ‘how to be’ as opposed to ‘what to do’ as a leader.

Supporting real leaders is equally difficult because it provides a different type of challenge. These leaders want to explore and experiment as part of their continuous growth. They want to be stretched and feel constantly at the cutting edge of leadership.

Here are a few ideas on how to support real leaders:

  • Provide them with access to the latest thinking on leadership. Send them to thought leadership conferences and seminars where they can feed off like-minded leaders from other organizations.
  • Find ways of providing them with a voice in the organization by facilitating access to the most senior leaders in the organization. They want to share their innovative views and ideas with their bosses. They are also keen to provide feedback on what is and what is not working.
  • Real leaders are hungry for feedback so ensure that processes are in place outside the formal performance reviews.
  • Provide access to a coach who can help them with their feelings of loneliness and isolation; their high visibility means they will experience these feelings from time to time. The coach should also support their development of mental toughness to enable these leaders to thrive on the pressure.
  • Provide them with a mentor who they can bounce ideas off and keep them stimulated.
  • Invite them to lead workstreams that are focused on change initiatives.
  • Recognise these real leaders and endorse their behaviours in public forums.

I hope that these ideas are helpful. I would love to hear from you about your own.

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